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Just Another Day in the US Army: Abe Cohen drives a Nazi Jeep into German territory

March 30, 1945 on the outskirts of Heidelberg, Germany: An open city, white sheets and pillowcases flying from the windows. Slept under a wine tank, long as a football field. Sunrise, found the bridge across the Neckar River blown up. My battalion commander, surveying the scene, pointed out the German medical center across the river. Division headquarters wanted to know if American soldiers were patients there. Bridge kaput—pointed to a row boat. I knew my mission.

Hewitt, my faithful companion and driver, not too enthusiastic, started to row. The Neckar River was about 300 yards wide; halfway across, a few rifle shots, coming from an apartment at river’s edge, fortunately missed us.

Upon landing, we proceeded to the hospital compound, where I asked for the commandant. Soon, a medical general appeared. I informed him that I was now in charge and asked if there were any U.S. military here. He answered “no” but close by in two small hospitals, each contained a G.I.

Having no vehicle, I asked for his car. He walked us to it, a duplicate of our own Jeep, except it had the Nazi emblem and his flag attached. He gave us exact directions and we took off. After about two km, we turned a corner and there was a Nazi lieutenant. standing in front of a tank. As we passed, I saw his mouth open in astonishment, seeing two G.I.s driving a Nazi officer’s car. We kept driving, now knowing that the information given to me that another battalion further south had crossed the Necker and secured this area was wrong. Not unusual in this now fluid war. No turning back, so we proceeded on our mission.

Very shortly we came onto a small building flying the German Red Cross flag, in which we discovered an American soldat in very bad shape. He was having breathing problems and they had rigged up a gadget that kept his mouth open and his tongue immobilized.

At that moment, in stormed the lieutenant we had passed earlier. He yelled and we quickly understood that we were being arrested. We were led to his car. We came to a small village and stopped in front of a house. A major appeared and the lieutenant told him how we were detained. The major asked me the name of our unit. I refused. He then looked at the insignia on our jackets and said “Blut and Fire”, the motto of the 63rd Division. I knew then that he knew more about us than I about them. He started to ask questions, I looked dumb and in English said that I didn’t understand. He then called for another soldier who spoke English and he became our interpreter.

Hewitt pulled out his identification card, handed it to the major right side up, showing his photograph and the back which had a large Red Cross. While the major was examining it, Hewitt leaned over, kicked my ankle and jokingly whispered, “You Goddamn Jew, we will be shot”. When I gave the major my card, he turned it over, read my name—Lt. Abraham Cohen–out loud. At this point, I felt that I better speak up. I told him that my colonel had sent me on this mission to check on any U.S. Army wounded soldiers, that we had the car that belonged to the German medical general, his directions to the small hospital where we were captured and that it would be in the best interests of all if we were set free. If this didn’t happen, my colonel could take vengeance and the German hospital could suffer.

This, of course, was good talk. My colonel at this time didn’t have any idea where I was. But I could see that I had made an impression. The major said that because I was a medical officer and a non-combatant, if he blindfolded us and then when we returned would not report any military position. I agreed. The truth is that we didn’t see anything. The lieutenant then drove us back to the small hospital where we could pick up our vehicle, less any blindfold. We picked up the car, drove back to Heidelberg, where the engineer had put up a temporary bridge, and reported this encounter to my colonel.

P.S. My aid station was bombed while I was away and two young men lost their lives. I checked on our American soldat the next day and he had died during the night.

–Abe Cohen, Quincy resident

More about Neckar: Soldiers of Necker” is a 30-minute-long award-winning film by three 19-year-old brothers that tells the story of “Uncle John” who served in World War II.
Pictures of Heidelberg, Germany
at the time of capture by US Forces (255th Infantry Regiment).


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